Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM/AS(2012)7 1 October 2012



Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(June – October 2012)



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Human rights
European Convention on Human Rights
Execution of judgments
Other questions concerning human rights
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
Social cohesion
Education, culture, youth and sport
Specific co-operation
Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
Co-operation with the European Union, the United Nations, the OSCE and other organisations
Conclusion

Introduction

1. The present report sets out the activities carried out by the Committee of Ministers since the last Parliamentary Assembly session at the end of June. It also reports on the recent and forthcoming initiatives of the Albanian Chairmanship.

Human rights

European Convention on Human Rights

2. The Parliamentary Assembly’s attention is drawn to the fact that the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to the Parliamentary Assembly's Recommendation 1991 (2012) "Guaranteeing the authority and effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights" in September. In that reply, the Committee of Ministers notes the importance of the role to be played by both national parliaments and the Parliamentary Assembly in the implementation of the Convention and, in reply to the concerns expressed by the Assembly, cites the measures agreed in the Brighton Declaration by the States Parties to the Convention as well as the decisions subsequently taken by the Committee of Ministers to follow it up.

3. On 24 October, the Ministers' Deputies will hold an exchange of views with the outgoing President of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza. Finally, within the framework of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, Albania will organise a workshop on 5 October in Tirana focusing on certain aspects of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights at national level.

Execution of judgments

4. Concerning the supervision of the execution of the judgments of the European court of Human Rights, the Ministers’ Deputies held their 1150th meeting (DH) in September 2012. On this occasion, they decided to close the examination of 247 cases.

5. The Deputies examined among others the cases of freedom of expression against Azerbaijan (Mahmudov and Agazade and Fatullayev). They welcomed the fact that the Azerbaijani authorities have requested the assistance of the Venice Commission with a view to preparing a law on defamation so that its content is in conformity with the Convention’s requirements and encouraged them to pursue this work with the Venice Commission speedily and in close co-operation with the Secretariat. Pending the preparation of this law, the Deputies invited the authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that the current legislation is applied in accordance with the Convention’s requirements. They agreed to resume consideration of this case at their 1157th meeting (December 2012) (DH).

6. The Deputies also pursued their examination of the case of Sejdic and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina. They noted with deep regret that, despite their commitment, the executive authorities and political leaders have, once again, failed to reach a consensus and to present draft constitutional amendments to the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina by 31 August 2012. The Deputies instructed the Secretariat to prepare a second interim resolution for their consideration at their 1157th meeting in case the Constitution is not amended by 30 November 2012 at the latest.

7. Regarding the Alekseyev case against the Russian Federation, the Deputies noted that events similar to those envisaged by the applicant (Gay Pride) continued to be refused. They noted in this respect that in the vast majority of cases, the competent authorities in particular in Moscow refused to agree the time and place for such events, and that the information provided did not allow the Committee to satisfy itself that these decisions were based on a thorough and objective assessment of the situation as required by the Court’s judgment. In this context they reiterated their concerns as regards the use of regional laws prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality among minors to refuse events similar to those concerned by the judgment. They decided to resume consideration of these issues at the latest at their first DH meeting in 2013 in the light of an action plan to be submitted by the authorities.

8. With regard to the Zhovner group / Ivanov case concerning the failure to implement domestic judicial decisions in Ukraine, the Deputies deeply regretted that the new law was not applicable to the domestic judicial decisions already delivered and pending. They noted in this context the first judgment delivered by the Court since the defreezing of the repetitive applications in the case of Kharuk and others against Ukraine and urged the Ukrainian authorities once again to take the necessary measures as a matter of utmost urgency to resolve this issue, with a view to their next examination of these cases in December 2012.

9. Finally, the Deputies instructed the Secretariat to prepare a document presenting the tools available to the Committee of Ministers to supervise the execution of judgments and suggesting ideas for further tools, with a view to holding a debate at their next Human Rights meeting on whether more effective measures are needed in respect of States that fail to implement judgments of the Court in a timely manner, paying particular attention to violations disclosing a systemic issue at national level.

Other questions concerning human rights

10. At the beginning of July, the Committee of Ministers decided on the methodology for the review of the implementation of its Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)4 to member states on human rights of members of the armed forces. In September, the Committee adopted a similar decision with respect to its Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 to member states on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. These reviews had been agreed at the time of the adoption of the recommendations in 2010.

11. At the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers held a thematic debate on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity1.

12. In the field of freedom of expression, media and information society, the Committee of Ministers recently adopted a Declaration on the Desirability of International Standards dealing with Forum Shopping in respect of Defamation, “Libel Tourism”, to Ensure Freedom of Expression. It also approved terms of reference for a Committee of Experts on Rights of Internet Users.

13. After the summer break, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the outgoing President of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. On the same occasion, it took note of the Advisory Committee’s 8th activity report covering the period from 1 June 2010 to 31 May 2012.

Rule of law and judicial co-operation

14. In July, the Committee of Ministers welcomed a report of the Secretary General on the review of Council of Europe conventions and entrusted its Rapporteur Group on Legal co-operation with examining the proposals contained therein. In September, the Group began its examination of the report with a view to identifying proposals for its follow-up.

15. In this context, at the initiative of the Albanian Chairmanship, the Committee of Ministers took note of the state of signature and ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197), the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201) and the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210). It invited the States that have not yet done so, to consider signing and ratifying these treaties as soon as possible and noted that the Chair intended to come back to this question towards the end of the Albanian Chairmanship to take stock of the progress made.

16. The 31st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice held in Vienna (Austria) from 19 to 21 September 2012, was preceeded by a treaty event during which a large number of member States signed (or ratified) Council of Europe Conventions, notably the recently adopted Fourth Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Extradition which was opened for signature on the occasion of the Conference.

17. At the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers invited the Republic of Guinea to sign the Council of Europe Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes Involving Threats to Public Health (CETS No. 211).

18. In September, the Committee of Ministers took note of a request of Panama to be invited to accede to the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) and noted that the Committee of Ministers agreed in principle to granting this request. The Secretariat was therefore instructed to consult the non-member States which are Contracting States to the Convention. If no objections are received from them, the decision to invite Panama to accede to the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) will be regarded as adopted on 14 November 2012.

19. At its first meeting in September, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the Chairperson of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and took note of its annual report of activities for 2011.

20. Later the same month, the Committee adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)11 to member States on the role of public prosecutors outside the criminal justice system.

21. Lastly, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1988 (2011) on “The underground economy: a threat to democracy, development and the rule of law”.

Social cohesion

22. In the field of social cohesion, in June the Committee of Ministers adopted two recommendations to member states. The first recommendation (Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)9) concerns mediation as an effective tool for promoting respect for human rights and social inclusion of Roma. The objective of the recommendation is to promote a common understanding of some basic principles such as human rights, impartiality, systematic consultation and intercultural sensitivity that can help make mediation in this field effective and maximise its impact.

23. The second recommendation (Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)8) concerns the implementation of good governance principles in health systems. This text recommends that the governments of member States use and promote the tools described in the appendix to the recommendation as a basis for the development of their own monitoring tools to assist in the implementation of the principles enshrined in Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)6 on good governance in health systems which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers in March 2010.

Education, culture, youth and sport

24. The Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers hosted in Durrës, Albania, on 3 and 4 September the 2012 Council of Europe Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue. More than a hundred participants gathered at the Exchange (representatives of religious communities and non-religious convictions, youth organisations, media professionals and representatives of governments) to discuss the role of young people in the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue for the building of tomorrow's Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly was also represented. For the first time since the Exchanges began, young people played an active part, and made a very valuable contribution to the discussions.

25. The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers also organised in Tirana on 6 and 7 September, as part of the " Passing on the remembrance of the Holocaust and prevention of crimes against humanity: a cross-cutting approach" programme, both a tribute from European youth to those who saved the honour of humankind and a European workshop on remembrance of the Holocaust. These events afforded an opportunity to highlight the Albanian population's exceptional attitude to its Jewish population during the war, to raise awareness, among participants, particularly the younger ones, of the citizens' reflex shown by those persons who saved Jews’ lives, and to grasp what the witnesses present had experienced. They also enabled a group of around 30 teachers to improve their skills in the passing on of remembrance of the Holocaust.

26. Following on from the thematic debate which they held in June on "Living together implies having a level of common competences as regards intercultural and democratic dialogue, as well as a system of attitudes, behaviour and common values. Can these be taught?", the Deputies welcomed the Andorran delegation's initiative of taking this theme further during its forthcoming Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. They agreed that the Council of Europe should optimise its activity in the field of education for human rights and democratic citizenship, and invited the Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice (CDPPE) to prepare concrete proposals along these lines for discussion in the context of the draft Programme and Budget for 2014-2015.

27. The topics “Diversity in Europe, an asset for the future”; “Promoting intercultural dialogue – a task for society as a whole in Europe and beyond” and “The role of education and the contribution of young people towards promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and better integration in society”, as important elements of the “living together”, will be the themes of a High-level Conference to be organised by Albania on 9 November 2012, in Tirana, in the framework of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

28. As regards the youth sector, the Albanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers hosted from 9-17 September, in Llogara, Albania, the first ever Regional Peace Camp in South-East Europe. Young people from Albania and neighbouring countries gathered at this event to engage into a dialogue and activities to overcome conflict situations, based on human rights education and intercultural learning.

29. Where sport is concerned, the Deputies adopted, on 18-19 September, Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)10 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of child and young athletes from dangers associated with migration.

30. Furthermore, in the context of the replacement of the members of the governing bodies of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Deputies appointed Ms Valérie Fourneyron, French Minister of Sport, Youth, Education for All and Associations, as the European representative on WADA’s Executive Committee and Mr Pavel Kolobkov, Deputy Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation, as the second member of WADA's Foundation Board. The Deputies will have an exchange of views with them on 10 October 2012.

31. The Deputies took decisions on the holding of two Council of Europe conferences of specialised ministers. They approved the holding of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Culture in Moscow (Russian Federation) in April 2013 and agreed to hold the 16th session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT) in July 2014 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

32. The Deputies also adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1987 (2011) on combating all forms of discrimination based on religion and to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1990 (2012) on the right of everyone to take part in cultural life.

33. Finally, it should be mentioned that on 13 September the Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C) held an exchange of views with Ms Deborah Bergamini, Chair of the North-South Centre Executive Committee, on the Centre's recent and forthcoming activities. The relevance of the North-South Centre’s new statute, adopted in May 2011 by the Committee of Ministers, and the Centre's potential for use as a tool for implementation of the Council of Europe's policy on neighbouring regions were emphasised.

Specific co-operation

34. With regard to Georgia, the Committee of Ministers took note at the beginning of July of an interim report on the implementation of the Council of Europe programme to support Georgia with a view to the 2012 (parliamentary), 2013 (presidential) and 2014 (local) elections that would take place in that country, encouraging the Georgian authorities to make the best possible use of this assistance programme to ensure that the elections were free and fair. It instructed the Secretariat to continue implementing this programme in close co-operation with the Georgian authorities and in co-ordination with the other relevant international organisations.

35. Concerning Belarus, the Parliamentary Assembly's attention is drawn to the fact that the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply in September to its Recommendation 1992 (2012) on "The situation in Belarus", pointing out inter alia that the Committee's strategic objective remains the integration of Belarus into the Council of Europe on the basis of the Organisation’s values and principles, pursuant to the Declaration of the May 2005 Warsaw Summit. That said, it calls on the authorities of Belarus to release all those arrested in the wake of the presidential elections of 19 December 2010 and others imprisoned for political reasons and restore their rights. It also states that assistance to civil society, including independent media, should be maintained and reinforced. In this connection, at the beginning of July the GR-DEM discussed the Council of Europe's activities in this country for the period 2012-2013. The group will shortly resume its examination of the question in the light of a document taking account of the delegations' comments on the activities proposed.

Organisational development and reform, programme and budget

36. On 5 July 2012, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1999 (2011) on “Follow-up by the Committee of Ministers to the work of the Parliamentary Assembly”. Over the next few weeks, the Committee of Ministers will continue examining the draft adjusted budget for 2013, in the framework of the first biennial Programme and Budget of the Organisation (2012-2013), in view of its adoption by the end of October.

Co-operation with the European Union, the United Nations, the OSCE and other organisations

37. Concerning co-operation with the European Union, at the beginning of July the Committee of Ministers appointed Professor Rainer Hofmann as alternate to Ms Maud De Boer-Buquicchio to sit on the organs of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. His mandate will expire on 1 July 2017. Furthermore, on 3 July, the Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) of the Ministers' Deputies held an exchange of views with Mr Elmar Brok, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, and with Ms Barbara Lochbihler, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights.

38. Concerning the OSCE, a meeting of the Co-ordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE will be held in Vienna on 19 October to examine co-operation in the areas of the fight against terrorism and action against trafficking in human beings. In addition, the Ministers' Deputies held an exchange of views with Mr Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, on 19 September, which provided an opportunity to discuss co-operation in the High Commissioner's fields of competence.

39. Concerning co-operation with the United Nations, the Committee of Ministers approved the text of a draft Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on this subject at the beginning of July, which the Committee of Ministers Chairmanship has been asked to transmit to the United Nations Secretary General, via its New York mission. In addition, the Committee invited the delegations of all the member States to co-sponsor and actively promote the draft resolution at the United Nations, in conjunction with the Committee of Ministers Chairmanship. Finally, it expressed the wish that the resolution also be co-sponsored by the observer States. The draft resolution was communicated to the Parliamentary Assembly for information.

40. Finally, also in July, the Committee of Ministers had referred to it a co-operation programme between the Council of Europe and the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) for the period 2012-2013, of which it took note.  The programme is configured around three main sections: (i) human rights and the rule of law, (ii) democracy – civil society and (iii) education - diversity, language and culture – youth. An exchange of views had taken place beforehand on 3 July between the Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) of the Ministers' Deputies and Mr Pierre de Cocatrix, Director of the Private office of the Secretary General of the OIF.

Conclusion

41. With its term of office to draw to a close in the coming month, the Albanian Chairmanship welcomes the fruitful co-operation achieved with the Parliamentary Assembly and, in this connection, awaits with interest the third meeting to be held between the Ministers' Deputies and the President of the Assembly on 10 October. Albania remains committed to promoting the values of the Council of Europe and assures the Assembly of its backing for action carried out by the Assembly in this respect.

1 The Deputies agreed that their next thematic debate to be held on 18 September 2012 would be on “Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”, notably the implications that freedom of expression may have on this theme (cf. CM/Del/Dec(2012)1147/1.4).



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